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Running Hue Lab Formulas (Or Scenes) via Alexa Routines – New Video

Alexa routines are quite powerful, and they include turning smart bulbs on/off – and changing their color. But it wasn’t possible to dynamically change the color… until now!

Recent support added by Philips Hue means that you can kick off Hue Lab Formulas within Alexa routines, allowing you to setup some really awesome smart home automations. This YouTube video explains how to set this up, and what you need to know before you do this:

The individual sections of this video are available at the following timestamps:

  • 0:00 Intro
  • 0:45 Important Notes
  • 2:02 Tutorial (How to set this up)
  • 3:28 Bugs With This
  • 4:24 Final Notes
  • 4:47 Conclusion (Please like and subscribe!)

Video Transcript

Introduction

Hello, I’m Tristan. When I first set up my Philips Hue ecosystem, I played around with the lab formulas a lot. These are great, but I always wished that I could trigger some of these via Alexa Routines. After all, being able to easily setup a flashing light doorbell, or create a disco when you walk into a room, are really nice smart home effects which weren’t really possible to set-up with a basic Hue and Alexa setup. Until now.

Basically, the Hue skill was upgraded ‘at some point’ so that any Hue Lab Formulas that you create will appear as scenes under the Alexa app. And luckily you can trigger scenes as part of routines. This video shows you exactly how to do this, so that you can create awesome smart home routines without needing to buy an expensive smart hub.

Important Notes

So the first thing to note is that you must have a Philips Hue Bridge in order to use the Hue Lab Formulas, and therefore get the full Alexa integration features. Using your Hue lights in Bluetooth mode on your phone (without the Bridge) won’t work, unfortunately.

Right, so I assume that you already have Alexa and Hue setup (if not, I’ve covered that in another video), and also that you’ve set up some Hue Lab Formulas (which I’ve also covered in another video).

Before you can add these lab formulas to routines, you should launch the Alexa app, go to Devices and then Scenes. Scroll through and see whether the Lab Formulas are listed here as scenes. If they aren’t, scroll right to the bottom and click Discover Scenes.

After a short wait, your Hue Lab Formulas should be pulled through into the Alexa app. (but if not, you should probably try turning the Hue Bridge off and on, and in the worst case, unlink and relink the Hue skill within Alexa – then click ‘Discover Scenes’ again).

Tutorial (How to set this up)

While having these scenes in your Alexa app might not seem like much, it allows you to setup some powerful automations that previously weren’t possible. This is because the Hue Lab Formulas are dynamic and color changing (just like this one), so now – for the first time – you can set up Alexa Routines that do more than just turn a bulb on or off (or change to a single colour).

So to do this, stay in the app and click More and then Routines. Click the plus icon, and give your routine a name. Choose your trigger, which could be anything – when motion is detected (by a smart camera or motion detector), when your doorbell is pressed, or even when your water sensor detects a leak.

Then for the action, you’ll want to choose Smart Home then Control Scene. Scroll through this labyrinth list (which had no filters or search capability… thanks Amazon) and choose your Hue Lab Formula. Feel free to add more actions if you’d like, and then click on save.

Now you can test this out. In my case, I set up a routine that activated my Hue downlights when my doorbell is pressed. [Clip] Paaarty at my house. Please come to my party. I’m so cool.

This is all pretty easy to set up, and thanks goes to shrew who pointed this out over on my blog. However there are some bugs: in one case, my lab formula kept coming on at 1% brightness. Therefore I had to add a new action, that said to set the brightness to 100% first.

Bugs & Tweaks

Also it wasn’t clear to me how long this effect would stay on for: so I ended up adding a wait into the routine, and then I turned the effect off at the end of this wait. Otherwise it probably would have stayed on forever. Well, until the light burnt out – I guess.

Finally, sometimes the Hue Lab Formulas can be buggy… they simply don’t turn off when you tell them to. They literally just ignore you and stay on. Also sometimes after running a lab formula, your Hue accessories won’t control the light properly – requiring you to turn the power to the light off and on again. This is a general bug with Hue Lab Formulas, but it has become a bit better in recent months – so maybe Hue are actively working on fixing these bugs.

Final Notes

And that just about wraps up today’s video. I’m pretty happy that this works now – many other smart lighting providers don’t allow you to set up dynamic effects via Alexa routines, so it’s a nice benefit of the Hue platform that this is (now) possible.

Alexa’s integration with other smart devices seems to be growing more powerful every month, in my opinion. I hope you liked this video. If you did, please click the thumbs up button. Please also subscribe to my channel, and click the bell icon – which will notify you when I release a new video. Thank you!

About Tristan Perry

Tristan Perry is a software developer who is passionate about tech gadgets, DIY and housing. He has therefore loved seeing smart homes hit the mainstream. Tristan also has an academic background (in Math & Computer Science), and so he enjoys digging into the technical ways that smart home devices work.

Tristan owns close to a dozen Amazon Echo devices, way too many Philips Hue bulbs and lightstrips, a boat-load of Ring Cameras and Doorbells... and a bunch of other smart home devices too (from Reolink, Google Nest, GLEDOPTO and others).

2 thoughts on “Running Hue Lab Formulas (Or Scenes) via Alexa Routines – New Video”

  1. Hi Tristan, I am 84 years old and I have some lights that have been recently installed. Unfortunately, they are too bright and it is not a matter of changing bulbs . Where can I buy the best switch for all and I need as electrician. I hope not.

    Gratefully

    Myrna Wood

    Reply
    • Hi Myrna,

      Thanks for the comment. Are the bulbs themselves ‘smart’ bulbs (i.e. you can download a phone app and control them from there)? If so, just dimming that via the phone app is probably best.

      But assuming they are standard bulbs, it’s hard to suggest the best way forward. If both the bulbs and the light fixtures are dimmable, then any dimming switch will work just fine (but an electrician will probably be required, sorry to say!).

      However unless it was specified up-front (that you might want to dim them), it’s unlikely that the bulbs and light fixtures are both dimmable. In which case, you probably have two options:

      • Buy smart bulbs, which you install into the lights, and then control their brightness that way.
      • Change the light (or the installed bulbs) so it’s less bright. This might involve a less powerful light, or buying less powerful bulbs (e.g. 3W not 5W bulbs).

      Unfortunately it’s hard to know exactly what to suggest without seeing the light and bulbs directly, although I hope the above helps out a bit.

      Kind regards,
      Tristan

      Reply

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